[Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Thu Mar 27 11:57:27 CDT 2008

Google is pretty effective at getting you the web page you're looking for,
and that task is many orders of magnitude more difficult than the one we
face. But unlike Google, the classification algorithm would be open-access,
for all to see, comment on, and modify through additional asserted
classifications, etc.

We can all agree that there is no one "true" classification for all taxa
that all taxonomists will agree on.  This is not an opinion; it's an
accurate representation of reality.  And that reality is not very likely to
change anytime soon.

We can also agree that many/most/virtually all users of classifications
(50%? 90%? 99.9999%?) do not have the level of interest or expertise to make
assessments themselves, and all they want is one classification (preferably
relatively stable over time) that they can use for whatever their
non-taxonomy-expert needs are.

If we can all agree on these two things (and so far, I haven't seen anyone
on this or any other thread suggest otherwise), then we have two choices for
selecting a single classification:

1) Follow somebody/entity (or ranked series of entities) that are deemed
trustworthy; or

2) Follow an algorithmically-derived classification based on all available
information ("available" in this case meaning available to the algorithm).

I would wager that anyone who needs an explanation for how an
algorithmically-derived classification is attained (or understands the
issues well enough to assess the appropriateness of the method), is someone
who (virtually by definition) understands enough to be able to go with
option #1 above.

The rest of the world really doesn't care; and they can go with option #2.

What I proposed accommodates both options simultaneously; it's just that the
latter uses an objective algorithm to rank the alternate classifications
(when they disagree) via meta-analysis; and the former relies on human
brains to make the same decisions.

Bottom line is that there is no single classification for all taxa that all
taxonomists agree with, so some arbitration is needed to arrive at a single
classification that the non-taxonomists will find helpful.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Mary 
> Barkworth
> Sent: Thursday, March 27, 2008 6:09 AM
> To: TAXACOM at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia
> I also find myself wondering whetheran algorithm would be any 
> easier to breach than an authoritarian wall - and how one 
> would explain to a non-computer person how a classification 
> attained a number one ranking. 
> Mary
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> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
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